Halle Berry explains the horrors of her movie “Never Let Go”: 'Is everything real or not?' (exclusive)

Halle Berry explains the horrors of her movie “Never Let Go”: 'Is everything real or not?' (exclusive)
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The actress chats exclusively with EW about the movie, where she stars as a mother of 10-year-old twins in a post-apocalyptic world. Plus, check out the first trailer.

Never Let Go brings a whole new meaning to the term safe house.

In the upcoming horror movie directed by Alexandre Aja (Crawl, The Hills Have Eyes) and starring and executive-produced by Halle Berry, the Oscar winner plays Momma, who lives in the deep South with her 10-year-old fraternal twin sons, Samuel and Nolan (Anthony B. Jenkins and Percy Daggs IV, respectively), in a post-apocalyptic America.

In the new trailer, below, we see their meager existence: a shabby cabin in the woods, very little food, no electricity, old and worn clothes. But this home provides protection from the "evil in the world," as Berry exclusively explains to Entertainment Weekly. So anytime they venture outside, they remain connected to the house via large ropes, and Momma instructs the boys to "never let go" — which becomes their mantra in more ways than one.

"It was interesting for me to think about the home as a protective prison, the home of a mother who loves her children so much, she would keep them in her womb forever if they never had to see the monsters that she sees in the world," Aja explains of his movie, in theaters Sept. 27. "Halle has brought a lot of compassion for her character, where she comes from and what informs her tragic present. She gave Momma the strength and fragility she needs to weave a tight bond around her sons."

<p>Liane Hentscher</p> Anthony B. Jenkins, Halle Berry, and Percy Daggs IV in 'Never Let Go'

Liane Hentscher

Anthony B. Jenkins, Halle Berry, and Percy Daggs IV in 'Never Let Go'

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What, exactly, are those monsters? Are the snakes we glimpse in the trailer real or symbolic? Berry, understandably, doesn't want to spoil what's to come when asked about what caused the end of the world. "That's a big reveal of the movie that we shouldn't give away," she says, coyly.

Below, Berry does answer lots of other questions about the film, previewing thrills both physical and psychological. She expands on the story's theme, explains her draw to demanding roles like this, sets the record straight on that comment she made about skinning squirrels for the film, and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We see Momma and her sons tethered to this house by ropes, and I couldn't help thinking that it's like they're hanging on by a thread. Of course, this is just a very big thread. How does that factor into their situation?

HALLE BERRY: That's a very good metaphor. The boys were born in this house, and they've never left this house. So this house is all they've ever known — as far as their ropes can take them into the woods, is all they've ever seen. And so they've grown having to live completely off the land. The only thing that was in that house is what was left 10 years ago when they were born, and they have used all the resources that were left there. So now they have to live off the land and eat squirrels and frogs and bugs and worms and rabbits and really hunt for their food in order to actually survive, whatever they can find living in the woods. And it's kind of contingent on the season and if they have rain or not, if they have water, if there's a drought. So they've been living a pretty rough life. They're tethered to the ropes because the ropes are what keep them safe. There's essentially evil in the world and being connected to their house is their safety... their survival. If the rope gets broken, then they're very vulnerable to the evil that's inhabiting the forest.

As far as I know, there are no blogs or guidebooks on how to survive a post-apocalyptic situation with two sons. So, because their situation is so unique, what, if anything, did you inherently understand about Momma?

The big question for me, for Momma, is: Has Momma been driven crazy? If you can imagine living with only two children for a decade and having no interaction with anyone else, that wasn't always Momma's existence, but it is the existence of the boys. So I think what you question about Momma is, is she really crazy? Was she always crazy? Was she driven crazy? And the big question is: Is everything real or not? Is what she's seeing real? Is she schizophrenic? Has she gone mad? And the boys start to question if it's real — and that's when sort of mayhem starts because they're older now, they're 10, they're not always believing everything that Momma has told them. And when they start to question her, that's when things start to go awry. Momma loses control of her boys and then things go crazy.

Related: Mark Wahlberg praises Halle Berry's action chops in 'The Union': ‘She is in incredible shape’

You mentioned that this hasn't always been her existence. So should we expect flashbacks? Do we see life before? And if not, did you at least have a full story for yourself about what her life might've been?

Oh, yeah. We had a huge story, a whole backstory of what her life might've been. And you'll find out parts of what her life was throughout the movie. You'll learn information. There's not a lot of flashback, but you will learn in pieces who she might've been.

If they were born in the house, that means dad was around at some point.

At some point... because two babies were made. [Laughs] You see dad in the course of the movie... You will come to understand dad.

Based on the trailer alone, am I right in thinking this is the type of project that demanded a lot of you?

It did. And these are the kinds of things I really love to go deep into character — and really, it helped us a lot that we shot in the middle of nowhere. That was our only set. We spent day in, day out in the middle of the woods in this house. It helped the boys because it was just the three of us — I just had two young performers to work off of and work with, and it really helped us to be in that setting all the time to sort of suspend our reality and to imagine day after day after day, hour after hour that this was really our life. It would be a very rough — lonely, in some ways — existence. And we experienced that all together.

<p>Liane Hentscher</p> Halle Berry in 'Never Let Go'

Liane Hentscher

Halle Berry in 'Never Let Go'

We see that things get physical at times. Were there any injuries? Were there any set pieces that proved especially difficult or more taxing?

No injuries, thank goodness, on this one. There's no real set pieces... it was just, for us, always trying to stay as true to what this life would've been — them growing up in this house, all the language that they had to be taught by Momma. They didn't have the influence of society and other children; they didn't have teachers. So essentially, she was their teacher in every way. So it was trying to always be clear that we sounded the same, that we believed she was the one who taught these boys how to speak. Because she did come from what we call the "old world," she had a lot of information to impart. There were books left in the house, there were music records left in the house, so they did have access to things like that.

The two actors who play your sons, Anthony and Percy, I know this isn't their first project, but it is their first film. How did they keep you on your toes?

[Laughs] Well, you can imagine. They're really 10 years old — 9 and 10 years old — so they're into all kinds of stuff, a lot of mischief. Keeping them focused for long hours, that's always the challenge when you work with children. They can only work so many hours a day, but it's keeping them focused. And with this schedule, it was very tight. We moved really quickly, so it was always trying to stay engaged with them and keeping them on task and remembering where they were in the world. We had a trick where we would only talk to each other in our dialect so that we didn't just have to turn this speak on. They were really very talented. We searched long and hard to find these boys and boys that had to feel like they were twins, but had to be very different — they have very different characters in the movie, and you needed to know that visually. You needed to know who's who and see the personality difference between them, even in a visual way. So it was a challenge to find them.

Related: Halle Berry wins the Oscar, fulfilling Dorothy Dandridge's promise, and introducing Gabourey Sidibe

In addition to the physical aspects, there are psychological thrills here at play. Did your own motherly instincts kick in to protect them and make sure they were good with everything you're all dealing with?

Yeah. Well, they had their parents there, which is always the best. Real parents know better how to protect their children, and the things that their parents didn't want them to take part in or be privy to, they were always there to make sure they got protected. We all protected them, but we were making the kind of movie we were making, and it had themes that sometimes could have been a little advanced or a little frightening. And the boys had a couple "moments," let's just say, where reality and movie-making sort of blurred a little bit. The lines got blurred and there were some scares, and you always have to protect children from that. But their parents were there to do a very good job of that, letting everyone know what was okay and not okay for them.

Alexandre Aja has such a great résumé when it comes to these types of films. Why were you most excited to work with him?

I've been a fan of his work, and I knew that he would elevate this genre. I knew that it wouldn't be just classic horror. Of course, you have all of that, but it would also be elevated and be real storytelling. There's a real backstory to all of these characters. There's a theme of the movie — it's about generational trauma. That's one of the things that attracted him to this film as well as me. There's a quality that I knew he would bring to it. While it would be horror — and there's some classic horror thrills and chills — I just knew that he would think more deeply about this material. And I knew it would be beautifully shot. I knew that he'd be very thoughtful in those ways.

Related: Netflix explains scrapping Halle Berry Mothership movie, says actors agreed ‘better to not watch it’

At CinemaCon, people took your comments about how you really skinned a squirrel for a film and kind of ran with them a bit, and then Alexandre confirmed with PETA that it was a "realistic prop." Can you explain this prop?

It wasn't a real squirrel, but it seemed like it was a real squirrel because they can make movie magic today. So it looked exactly like a squirrel, and they had a taxidermy squirrel skin of some sort — I'm not so sure if it was real. The inside of the squirrel was rubber, and they would put this jelly on top of it, and when I peeled back the squirrel skin, it did look like I was really skinning a squirrel. But using the fake squirrel, I had to really learn how you would skin a squirrel — I had to actually go through all that. That's what I was talking about. No, I did not skin a live squirrel. And the boys did not eat real frogs either, but you'll think they ate real frogs.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.